Getting Your Money’s Worth

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that money is very often uppermost on my mind. Between basic living expenses, house expenses, two major yom tov seasons per year, and tuition, keeping up with the cost of Jewish living can be quite stressful. But Hashem does send chizuk in various forms, and I hope the following story will inspire you as much as it did me.

This year, my husband and I changed our children’s yeshiva to an excellent but rather pricey one. The Gemara in Beitzah 16a (thanks to my husband for finding the reference) tells us that all the money we spend on chinuch comes back to us. Besides this, we also receive the nachas of frum children. Clearly, schar limud is a worthwhile investment. But again, making those payments does not come easily, at least not for me.
Read more Getting Your Money’s Worth

Jumpstarting New Beginnings

Hey, long time no blog. I realized what the word blog means. It means you stick your head through a cardboard wall and there’s a bunch of people on the other side who revel in throwing wet sponges at your head. No one gets hurt (we hope). It may generate some fun…and here we hope that some of us may get better at getting better. Here are a few tried and proven methods I’d like to share in order to help ourselves jumpstart new beginnings again and again again…Hope you find some of them useful!
Read more Jumpstarting New Beginnings

Not Passing, and Proud of it

“Where do you study?” asked the shaddchun.
“Yeshivas Ohr Yaakov,” I answered, “and before that I learned at Ohr Somayach.”
“And before that?” she asked.
“University of California,” I said.
“And before that?” she persisted.

Before that? “Uh, high school.”
“Yes,” she said patiently. “Which high school?”
Was she kidding? “Harvard School, in North Hollywood, California.”
“Is that a Jewish school?”
This was too much. “Actually, it’s Episcopalian.”
Read more Not Passing, and Proud of it

Going Cold Turkey (Glatt of course)

Mmm.., milkshakes, cheeseburgers..ham sandwiches…BLTs.. Cigarettes. Remember those days? Remember when smoking was cool and everybody- I mean everybody did it? Then suddenly the news broke that it caused cancer, lung disease and you tried to stop but just couldn’t? Doctors told you that you would die if you didn’t stop smoking, but in the back of your mind, all you could think was that George Burns was still alive.. Remember the cold sweats, the weight gain, and the frayed nerves of that month last year when you tried to stop smoking? Remember that silly patch that you put on your arm? Nothing worked. Finally, one day you snapped. Another close friend or relative died. Finally, you quit. Now, you can run that extra mile, colds come less frequently, you did not get fat. You were still cool. Best of all the whole country supports your quitting.
Read more Going Cold Turkey (Glatt of course)

Voice, Vote and Listening

Please give us your input on How You Would Spend the Money for longer term Baalei Teshuva support efforts. Your voice can make a real difference.

If you don’t have much time, please vote for us in Best Group Blog and Best New Blog. We are also nominated for Best Jewish Religion Blog and Best Designed Blog. You can vote every three days.

Since Chava posted about Cultivating a Love of Eretz Yisrael, here is a great shiur by Rabbi Herschel Welcher covering the four major opinions on The Mitzvah to Live in Eretz Yisrael (left-click to play right click and Save Target as to load it to your PC)

For more listening pleasure, Classic Sinai has 24 great Torah mp3s that you can download or listen to on your PC including Rabbi Noach Weinberg on “Happiness” and “Pleasure: The Ultimate Energizer” Rebbetzin Heller on “Our Bodies Our Souls” and other greats by Rabbi Yom Tov Glaser, Rabbi Lawrence Keleman and many others.

How Would You Spend The Money?

Some people are ‘starters’. They love to create and develop new products and ideas. Others are ‘finishers’. They are systems people. They may not be that creative, but they can take ideas and turn them into reality.

A ‘starter’ will invent and patent a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that idea (a Shabbos lamp, for example). But without a ‘finisher’, that creative idea may never take off. The ‘starter’ will lose interest when the bulbs get hot too quickly or if production gets bogged down. And, in all likelihood, he or she will be spending many of his or her waking hours thinking about the next invention.

I think that just about sums up the dilemma that many ba’alei teshuvah face. The vast majority of outreach efforts are focused on starting and very few resources are focused on the finish. And if Shabbos lamps have a hard time making it without finishers, imagine how parents with teenagers and tuition bills are coping.
Read more How Would You Spend The Money?

Why G-d Created Google and the Web

It seems clear that G-d created Google and the Web to connect people and to spread Torah.

We were very fortunate this week to make some new friends at the Passaic Melave Malke, including Akiva who blogs at Mystical Paths. Akiva took photos and video’d (with his Canon camera) the first half hour of Rabbi Lazer Brody’s shiur and it’s a real treat to watch Rabbi Brody in action. Thanks to Akiva for joining the Beyond Teshuva team, the Passaic Torah Institute (PTI) for hosting the event and to Google the rest of the Web infrastructure for helping us to connect and spread Torah.

Video: Rabbi Brody, first 20 minutes.
Video: Rabbi Brody, next 12 minutes.

Photos: Rabbi Brody in Passaic, Photo Set here, Slide Show here.

Audio: Rabbi Brody, full 2 hours, MP3 format,
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

Rabbi Brody Speaking in New Jersey (click the play button to watch)

Cultivating a Love of Eretz Yisroel

From the moment I first came here to work on kibbutz, looking to experience the cleanest expression of communism in the Free World (…remember this was the 60’s!), and experienced the Land of Israel – the hills, the people, the smells, the songs, the connections – I knew that I was in love. It took me many years to go from disgruntled and passionate anti-Vietnam War protester to contented but still passionate resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, and I have logged many miles in my “wandering Jew” journey. But my love for Eretz Israel has never left my heart, and my desire to take my place among our people in Hashem’s precious land never wavered.
Read more Cultivating a Love of Eretz Yisroel

Kew Gardens Hills Melave Malka – With Rabbi Label Lam

Rabbi Yitzchak Kirzner zt”l told a story about a man who said that he is ahead of 90% of the world in his Yiddishkeit and when the rest of the world catches up, then he’ll work on growing more. But most committed Jews do not hold by that logic, we want to be a better Jew today than we were yesterday.

Continuing growth is not simple. We have to work on reducing the negative while at the same time always looking to build our positive thoughts, speech and actions. And in every age, it makes sense to use the tools at our disposal, like Beyond Teshuva, to help us grow.

Another great tool is an inspirational Melave Malka. A group of growth oriented Jews getting together to share an evening of food, friends and words of Torah. That’s why we’re extremely excited to be having our first:

Kew Gardens Hills Melave Malka
on Motza’ei Shabbos, Parshas Bo, February 4th at 9:00 PM
at Congregation Ahavas Yisroel – 147-02 73rd Ave.

Admission is $10 per person and we’ll be serving Milchik (ziti, lasagna, eggplant, etc…) so don’t nosh on any cold cuts for Shalosh Seudos.

Rabbi Label Lam is our special guest speaker and the topic is “Increasing Altitude: Continuing on the Growth Path”.

It should be a fantastic evening and, of course, it’s open to Jews of all stripes.

So please reserve the date and RSVP preferably at or at (917) 992-xxxx or right here in the comments, so that we can prepare properly.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

Using BT Passion for Outreach

I had the pleasure of joining the BeyondBT crowd with Rabbi Brody this past Motzie Shabbat. One point he made was BT’s are great at outreach, because they’re always burning with passion.

In his previous post, Rabbi Horowitz notes his surprise at the amount of separation between the religious and non-religious in Israel. This is absolutely the case, with very limited interaction between the two. Except for the BT. Since BT’s come from a wide variety of backgrounds and professions and often continue to work in their field, they’re often the sole bridge between worlds in Israel.
Read more Using BT Passion for Outreach

Is it a Mitzvah to Vote?

Thanks to your efforts, we have made it to the finals in four categories in the Jewish/Israelly Blog Awards. So if you can take 15 seconds to vote (the rules allow voting every 3 days), we can get out the word and broaden our community.

Best Jewish Religion Blog
Best New Blog
Best Designed Blog  
Best Group Blog

On a different note, one of our readers is interested in doing some research regarding the history of the (recent) BT movement. If anybody nows of any books on this matter, or can point to anyone in particular who knows about this issue, please let us know at

Sibling Rivalry-BT Vs. FFB: How Do We Stop It?

I’ve noticed along with others that there sometimes is an anti FFB sentiment running through some comments. I’d like to dispel people’s beliefs for a moment.

First of all let’s realize that if it wasn’t for the FFB world, we wouldn’t be here today on this website (obviously Hashem is the ultimate reason we are here). After all, the first BT’s of this past generation were merkaraved by Aish, Ohr Samayach, Neve, etc. All started by FFB’s. So we owe a tremendous hakaros hatov to the FFB world. Did we ever stop and think who kept the light of Torah burning the last 2000 years? That’s right, those FFB’s.
Read more Sibling Rivalry-BT Vs. FFB: How Do We Stop It?

The Unsung Victories of the Baal Teshuva

How would you describe colors to a blind person, or a piece of music to a deaf person? Close your eyes for a moment and ponder how you would convey the images and sounds. At the very least it would be a daunting, perhaps even an impossible task.

Similarly, how difficult is it for a BT to describe the sublime pleasure of discovering Torah’s emes to their non observant loved ones? How does a BT convey their deep satisfaction at having learned how to keep a kosher kitchen, or to put on tefillin? Surely for the BT there are many mitzvoth they needed to put a great deal of effort into in order to master. And yet, how can we share these accomplishments with those closest to us, with those who knew us all of our lives?
Read more The Unsung Victories of the Baal Teshuva

Inconsistencies in the Process of Growth

While I was in the process of becoming frum I found that many of my friends and family suddenly became big Talmidei Chachomim (Torah Scholars). They started noticing and commenting on discrepancies in my religious behavior. They never said it explicitly, but the implication was that I was being hypocritical. I fielded such questions as, “Why don’t you wear your yarmulka at school like you do at home?”, “How can you eat in the restaurant if they serve x, y, and z also?”, “How come you walk to shul and then come home and watch TV?”, etc.

As we know, for most of us becoming observant is a process. It’s not like upgrading a computer to a new operating system where suddenly you have all of this new information and features. (Actually, that can be a tough process too, but you get the idea.) There is a lot of information to assimilate and major behavioral changes to implement. In retrospect it can be amusing to look back on some of the inconsistencies we exhibited as our growth unfolded.
Read more Inconsistencies in the Process of Growth

Passaic Melave Malka With Rabbi Brody

About 40 people were in attendance at the Melave Malka in Passaic last night, despite the fact that it is a vacation week for the schools and there was another Melave Malka in the community. We want to thank the Passaic Torah Institute for their hospitality. We want to thank Rabbi Brody for taking the time to speak and insipire us and his cousin Rich Lenner for helping out.

Here are some photos of Rabbi Brody taken by Akiva at Mystical Paths.

Here are the mp3’s from Rabbi Brody’s drasha last night. I broke it up into 6 parts of about 19 minutes each. Rabbi Brody started the evening with a niggun which runs from 1 minute 45 seconds to 3 minutes and 20 seconds in part 1.

Here is part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6. Enjoy!

Rav Eliyahu Lopian on Equilibrium

From “After the Return” – P. 112
by Rabbi Mordechai Becher with Rabbi Moshe Newman

Rav Eliyahu Lopian is quoted as saying ‘Every person looks at himself as though he is on a tightrope; half the world is on the ground to his right and the other half on the ground to his left.” He continues, ‘Why a tightrope? Because there is only room for one.” Rav Lopian was describing a common human condition. People consider anyone ‘more religious” than themselves to be a fanatic, and anyone ‘less religious” tha themselves a heretic. Every individual believes that only he walks the tightrope of normalcy, while everyone else has fallen to one side or the other.
Read more Rav Eliyahu Lopian on Equilibrium

Reminder – Rabbi Lazer Brody speaking this Motza’ei Shabbos, 1/21 at 8:30 PM in Passaic

Just a reminder that

Rabbi Lazer Brody will be speaking

…at the first Beyond Teshuva Melave Malka in Passaic (the pizza is already ordered)

…on this Motza’ei Shabbos, January 21st at 8:30 PM

…at the Passaic Torah Institute – 441 Passaic Avenue

…on the topic of “Facing the Challenges of Growth with Tranquility and Joy”

…Admission is $5

We are really looking forward to seeing you there!

The Pierced Teen and I

I hardly ever sleep on airplanes. So after an eleven-hour Thursday night flight to Eretz Yisroel, I arrived Friday noontime, jet lagged and exhausted.

I came to spend Shabbos with my daughter, who is studying in a seminary in Yerushalayim. Together we walked through the winding streets of the Jewish Quarter and enjoyed a beautiful, spiritual Kabbolas Shabbos at the Kosel. After the conclusion of the tefilos, we returned to our hotel, which was almost exclusively occupied by Shabbos observant guests, for the evening seudah (meal). I ate rather quickly and was in my hotel room getting some much-needed sleep by seven o’clock. By midnight, I awoke, already having had a full night’s sleep. I quietly left the room and made my way down to the lobby with a sefer, some reading material, and an assortment of roasted nuts that my daughter had purchased for me.

Sitting in the deserted hotel lobby, I looked up and noticed a teenage young man sauntering through the lobby. He was wearing jeans and a tee shirt, sporting a spiked, Israeli-version- of-a ‘mushroom’ haircut and several body-piercing ornaments. Not your average yeshiva bachur.
Read more The Pierced Teen and I

Bridging Backgrounds

It’s very natural to try to insulate yourself with those who are as similar to you as possible. As a BT, we often form bonds with those who have gone through the same experiences as us – those who have also changed the direction of their lives to include Torah. This is a comfortable enclave; there are similar stories to share, others can appreciate the world we came from and can empathize with the current struggles to balance between non-religious familial obligations and our new lives.

The problem is, insulating ourselves with those who have gone through the same experiences as we have leaves out a lot of people – and many who we can learn an enormous amount from. And it also splinters a world that is broken in enough pieces as it is – just in the Orthodox world, there are divisions between Hareidi and Modern, between Chasidish and Litvish. Not to mention the huge divide that occurs between “frum” and “non-frum” Jews, a gap that many often believe to be unbridgeable.
Read more Bridging Backgrounds